Taberna Antonio Sanchez, Madrid, Spain

This gorgeous bullfighter’s tavern opened in 1830 and was purchased in 1884 by Antonio Sanchez Ruiz, who renamed it after his bullfighter son, Antonio Sanchez, who retired from bullfighting in 1922 after being seriously injured.


photo by Rafa Gallegos on Flickr

photo by Rafa Gallegos on Flickr


The decor is mostly original from 1884, including the beautiful zinc bar and carved wood bar, tiles, lamps, antique cash register, and clock.


bar - photo by the

bar – photo by the


photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014










I only had a tapa (complimentary) with a glass of wine there during my Madrid tapeo (tapas bar crawl), but they offer a full menu including specialties from the original recipes such as Cocido Madrileño (a famous local stew), Rabo de Toro (bull’s tail), Olla Gitana or Gypsy Pot (vegetable soup), Callos a la Madrileña (tripe stew), caracoles (snails), and torrijas. The prices are reasonable, with average cost of a starter and main course at 19€ and a set lunch Mon-Fri with starter, main, dessert, and drink for only 9.60€.


photo by the

photo by the


photo by the

photo by the



Taberna Antonio Sanchez
Calle del Mesón de Paredes, 13, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 915 39 78 26
Open Mon-Sat 12:00pm-4:00pm, 8:00pm-12:00am, Sun 12:00pm-4:30pm


Capp’s Corner, San Francisco, California

Recently I heard a rumor on Facebook that one of the oldest Italian restaurants in North Beach, Capp’s Corner, is going to close on March 17th. I searched for more info and found out they simply can’t afford to stay in business after a huge rent increase. San Francisco, this is starting to get real old. Soon, I fear, much of the old charm in one of the most well-loved cities in the country will be gone, thanks to greedy landlords. I’m hoping Capp’s Corner can survive, but in any case I urge you to visit real soon.


photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015


Capp’s Corner was opened by Joe Capp (Caporale), a San Francisco native, boxing promoter, and bookie, and Frank Sarubei in 1963 on the corner of Green and Powell Streets. Joe tended bar and greeted customers at the door in his trademark fedora hat, black suit and tie, smoking his cigar. In the 1960s a dinner at Capp’s, served family style with soup, salad, bread, vegetable, and pasta, cost around $5. In the 1980s the restaurant was purchased by the current owner, Tom Ginella. Joe Capp passed away in 1996.


photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015


When you enter Capp’s you see the large carved-wood back bar, which appears to be over 100 years old (the restaurant was a Basque place before 1963). They still use the old manual cash registers at the bar.


photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015


The dining room is decorated with simple wooden furniture, checked table coverings, the original linoleum flooring, and many framed works of art and photographs on the walls, making for an interesting browse before or after your meal.


linguine with clams and mussels - photo by

linguine with clams and mussels – photo by


The dinners are served “family style” with a good, thick, house made minestrone soup, a green salad with house made creamy Italian dressing, and French bread (soup or salad at lunchtime). The menu includes several pasta dishes, which come with soup and salad, and many heartier entrees, which come with soup, salad, pasta marinara, and vegetables. The linguine with clams and mussels is very well-regarded (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of City Lights bookstore, is a fan). Also popular are chicken parmigiana, petrale sole, leg of lamb, osso buco, and the NY steak, which a friend ordered on my recent visit. I was impressed by the flavor and size of the steak (only $25 with all the extras is a true steak bargain). I had the osso buco, which was very tender and served with plenty of delicious sauce. And you can bet that I’ll be going back soon for a steak or some pasta with clams and mussels!


Capp’s Corner
1600 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 989-2589
Open for Lunch Sun, Mon, Wed-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, Sat 11:30am-4:00pm
Dinner served Mon, Wed, Thur 4:30pm-10:00pm, Fri 4:30pm-10:30pm, Sat 4:00pm-10:30pm, Sun 2:30pm-10:00pm
Bar is open Mon 11:00am-10:00pm, Wed-Sun 11:30am-2:00am
Closed Tuesdays




Scoma’s, San Francisco, California

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of my favorite seafood restaurants in San Francisco. I also love Tadich Grill, Sam’s Grill, and others, but for the most consistently fresh and well-prepared seafood, Scoma’s has been my place since I heard about it from “Gentleman” Jim Lange, long time Bay Area radio DJ and host of Dating Game, who in the 90s was on the wonderful “easy listening” pop and big band AM radio station KABL. Back then I drove a ’68 VW Fastback with the original AM radio and it was so nice to have an AM station with good 1940s/50s/60s music instead of talk or news. Sadly, the station, which started back in 1959, changed formats to “soft rock” (an oxymoron, right?) in 2000, but listeners complained so they went back to pop, only to gradually mix in more and more 70s and 80s soft rock until it eventually quit in 2004 (it came back as an online only station in 2007).


photo by Michael Seratt on

photo by Michael Seratt on


Scoma's in Alameda

Scoma’s in Alameda

Scoma’s opened in 1965 when Al Scoma, one of the partners at Castangola’s on Fisherman’s Wharf, and his brother Joe bought a small 6-stool lunch counter on pier 47. They eventually expanded it into a large mutli-room restaurant that can now seat 350 people. In 1969 Al and Joe partnered with Victor and Rolando Gotti of Ernie’s restaurant in San Francisco to open the still-open Scoma’s Sausalito in a Victorian building that’s on the National Register of Historic Sites. In 1974 Joe Scoma left to open Joe Scoma’s in Emeryville (closed). There was even a Scoma’s in Alameda at one time (at the foot of Sherman Street before the Marina Village development was built).

In 2002 the city named the street the original Scoma’s is on ‘Al Scoma Way’ – that’s how much of a local institution it is. It’s almost always busy – in 2012 alone they served 450,000 diners – and it’s still owned by the Scoma extended family. In 2015, their 50th year, they plan “a few upgrades to the restaurant’s bar and dining room, though nothing major will change”, so I urge you to visit very soon to see it before anything changes (and to get some Dungeness crab while you still can).


photo by Erik Rasmussen on

photo by Erik Rasmussen on


Scoma’s has their own 46-foot fishing boat, which leaves early every morning to catch the freshest seafood off the coast, from salmon to Dungeness crab when it’s in season (generally Nov-Mar). Next to the dock is a fish processing station that has windows so people waiting for a table can look at the fresh fish being prepared for cooking. Scoma’s is a partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, so you can count on the freshest seafood, local when possible, and always sustainable (though it never hurts to ask your waiter for details on anything on the menu).


photo by  Kevlar Shea Adams on

photo by Kevlar Shea Adams on


The restaurant has multiple levels, but every visit except one (when I was seated on the second floor in the rear building) I’ve been seated in the main first floor dining room overlooking the wharf (as seen in the photo above). The walls are wood-paneled with paintings of a nautical theme, but mostly it’s about the lovely views of Fisherman’s Wharf (next to the restaurant). There are some photos of celebrities and sports figures on some of the walls to the right of the host stand as you enter the restaurant, so take a look around while waiting.


Inside view:





The menu at Scoma’s is long, but some of their specialties are helpfully presented as Scoma’s Classics: shrimp and scallops alla Gannon, “Lazy Man’s” Cioppino (an excellent easier-to-eat cioppino with shelled crab meat), crab or shrimp Louis, mixed seafood grill featuring the day’s fresh catches, and shellfish sauté sec (mmm, I’m getting hungry). When it’s in season, I often get the garlic-roasted Dungeness crab. Other local specialties include petrale sole doré and grilled sand dabs, and they have classic lobster Newburg and Thermidor (at reasonable prices). I highly recommend halibut when it’s available. Each time I’ve had it at Scoma’s it’s been tender, juicy, and succulent, not dry and overcooked like I’ve had in some other restaurants. Meat lovers can get steak, ribs, or a hamburger.



To get to Scoma’s find your way to the corner of Jefferson and Jones and head down the pier (Al Scoma Way). Valet parking is complimentary.


Al Scoma Way
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 771-4383
Open daily 11:30am – 10:30pm




Sobrino de Botín, Madrid, Spain

According to the 1987 version of the Guinness Book of World Records the oldest restaurant in the world is Sobrino de Botín, which was founded in 1725. But actually a few restaurants in the world predate it by hundreds of years, with the oldest, St. Peter Stiftskeller in Salzburg, Austria, going all the way back to 803 AD! Nevertheless, the 290-year-old restaurant is still an amazing place and a must-visit when in Madrid. Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in Spain, serves excellent Castilian cuisine featuring oven-roasted suckling pig and lamb.


front of restaurant since the 19th century - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Front of restaurant since the 19th century – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


The building that houses Botín dates back to 1590 on a street which was named Calle de los Cuchilleros (street of the cutlers – people who make, sell, or repair knives and other cutting instruments) in the 17th century. In 1725 a French cook named Jean Botín opened an inn on the site and added a wood burning oven, which is still in use today at the restaurant. In those days under Spanish law it was forbidden to sell food and wine, but you could prepare and serve food that guests brought themselves, so food was prepared for the inn’s lodgers. In 1765 the artist Francisco de Goya briefly worked there as a dishwasher. Jean Botín’s nephew, Candido Remis, later took over the establishment, turning the ground floor into a tavern named Sobrino de Botín (Botín’s nephew).


19th century confectionery counter - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

19th century confectionery counter – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


In the 19th century the tavern was remodeled, modifying the front of the restaurant, adding windows and a confectionery counter for cakes and pastries just inside the entrance (now part of the front dining room it’s used as a service bar and jamón carving station). Only the ground floor was used as a restaurant, with the second and third floors used to house the owner’s family, plus a wine cellar.


ground floor dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Ground floor dining room where I dined on my visit – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


In 1885 Amparo Martín and her husband Emilio González bought the tavern. The González family still runs the restaurant today. Ernest Hemingway mentioned Botín in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. According to legend he liked to sit at a table in the first dining room that had a view into the kitchen so he could watch Emilio cook his food. The restaurant closed in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War, with Emilio taking care of the house while Amparo and their children stayed in Castellon. After the war Amparo and Emilio’s sons Antonio and José ran the restaurant, turning it into a famous destination for visiting tourists, celebrities, and political figures, and expanding it into the second, third, and fourth floors of the building. Today the third-generation of the González family, Antonio Jr., José Jr., and Carlos, run the restaurant.


Table Hemingway may have dined at - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Table Hemingway may have dined at – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


The kitchen on the ground floor where the original wood-burning oven is still used - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

The kitchen on the ground floor where the original wood-burning oven is still used – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


upper floor dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

upper floor dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


Botín specializes in roasted meats, particularly suckling pig (cochinillo asado) from Segovia and lamb from Spain’s Sepúlveda-Aranda-Riaza area. Since I was visiting Segovia later on my trip and planned to have suckling pig there I ordered the roasted baby lamb, which came as a large shank portion, very tender and tasty with crispy skin, and served with delicious white potatoes. The waiter plated it from the roasting dish tableside.


photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


roast lamb - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Roast lamb – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


Botín’s menu also includes specialties like Madrid’s famous garlic soup with egg (sopa de ajo), scrambled eggs, clams Botín, baby squids in their own ink, and grilled filet mignon.


waiter deboning fish tableside - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Waiter deboning fish tableside – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


sangria pitchers - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Sangria pitchers – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


Sobrino de Botín
Calle de los Cuchilleros 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 913664217 or +34 913663026
Open for lunch daily 1:00pm-4:00pm, dinner daily 8:00pm-12:00am


Will’s Fargo, Carmel Valley, California

Last year I spent a weekend in Carmel and the Carmel Valley and discovered a great western-style vintage steakhouse called Will’s Fargo in sleepy Carmel Valley. Recently the area is becoming more fancy, with wineries and spa hotels, so I encourage you to visit soon while there are still some old places with original charm.


photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


Will’s Fargo was opened in 1959 by Will Fay in a house built in 1928 by Gordon Armsby of San Francisco and designed by Clarence Tantau (Del Monte Hotel) in Spanish style with Carmel quarried stone walls, Mexican terracotta roof tiles, and a hand-carved wood beamed ceiling. Named Casa Escondida, its guests included Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara. In 1940 the Holman family bought the house and it served as the bar and steakhouse for Holman’s Guest Ranch, which attracted such celebrity guests as Clark Gable, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford and Marlon Brando, until Will Fay bought it and renamed it Will’s Fargo, decorating it in Victorian Western style. In 2002 the owners of nearby Bernardus Lodge bought Will’s Fargo and thankfully didn’t change much. Then in 2014 the current owner of Holman Ranch, Thomas Lowder, purchased the steakhouse and it’s his intention to keep the interior pretty much the same while updating the menu slightly, but keeping its focus on traditional steakhouse fare (the chef, Jerome Viel, remains after the ownership change).


dining room, photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


The menu features steaks a la carte, including a Prime Angus top sirloin (my choice when I dined there last year), filet mignon in two sizes, rib eye, Kansas City strip, and a Porterhouse. Why top sirloin for me? In California I often order top sirloin when I see it on the menu because I love its beefy flavor and it’s leaner than a lot of other cuts. Not as tender as a filet, but more flavorful. I also ordered it because it was USDA prime (the most well marbled beef) Angus, which can make a difference.


top sirloin, photo by Dean Curtis 2014

top sirloin – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


Steaks don’t come with sides, but are priced below average and several classic sides are available, also at reasonable prices. Other dishes on the menu include chicken, pork, lamb, quail, seafood, pasta, and vegetarian options.


the bar, complete with Victorian nude - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

the bar, complete with Victorian nude – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014


If you like vintage motels and are more happy with original charm than new amenities, I highly recommend the Blue Sky Lodge in Carmel Valley. It recently was purchased so I urge you to stay there soon before it changes. From the motel you can walk to Will’s Fargo, some great wineries, and the village of Carmel Valley.


Will’s Fargo
16 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley, CA 93924
(831) 659-2774
Open daily at 4:30pm (call for closing hours)